Dzidzor (Jee-Jaw) is an Ghanian folklore + griot, performing artist, author and entrepreneur. Dzidzor’s style of call and response, has re-imagined poetry and story-telling as a way to include the audience in a experience to challenge, inspire and encourage self beyond traditional forms. She began performing through slam poetry and now uses performance art to honor folklore and memory of her African culture, she curates spaces like Black Cotton Club and facilitates creative empowerment workshops in Boston.


Artist Statement

I often reflect on Octavia E. Butler’s question, “What do we need to do now, to create a world that we want to live in?” My performance art demystifies the role of an artist being watched and invites the audience to be a part of the performance. This is while acknowledging the reality of being ignorantly consumed by the impact of an industry that systematically hasn’t benefited black and brown folks economically. This performance practice is the ability to cultivate a relationship and invest in the means of our own bodies through the performance of poetry, reciting folklore and griot and sonic producing. I welcome the audience to reflect on their own bodies through open prayer, yelling, crying, or chanting.

Being born in Brescia, Italy, to Ghanaian immigrants made my formative years in Charlotte, North Carolina, full of curiosity and questions surrounding the ideas of home, blackness, and identity. Living in the American South, my West African parents did their best to teach us those traditions, while trying their best to assimilate. In the midst of it, some of the culture was lost and rejected in fear of not being accepted. As I’ve grown as an artist and a person, I now see the relationship between the black experience in the American South and West Africa as vastly similar in the experience of God, history and culture; in both, one can find a sense of loss of culture and tradition in exchange for the western acceptance of Christianity.
These experiences and curiosities helped me grow into a passionate storyteller who made it a responsibility to alarm and radicalize the power we all have in the midst of our own bodies to answer the questions we have on our own terms--not only to practice this idea of freedom, but to identify the colonial limitations that we’ve accepted from our oppression.

My work creates a space for the questions to be personal and a guide that gives the audience space to answer for themselves. Questioning what we’ve learned about freedom and unlearning the restrictions that have been placed around liberation has been a core part of my work since I was a resident of the Arts Lab in Boston. There, I worked with women who were impacted by homelessness and explored how to demystify the expectations of womanhood through workshops that dealt with the root of how women internalize oppression and how it reflects in our daily lives.

In doing so, I think of the words of Margaret Walker, “We deserve to own ourselves; we have earned the right.” Owning self requires a release of what has previously kept us captive. By grabbing the mic, it symbolizes a community effort to release our own limitations, of owning our voice, our bodies, and our songs without the requirement of being skilled or being talented.

Project Description:

How does one discover one’s truth in the context of physical and spiritual displacement? I grew up in churches where women were known as the strongest prayer warriors, yet were not allowed to preach. Instead they organized everything, from keeping schedules to greeting visitors and congregants when they walked in the door. What felt like a rule of order in the church would prompt a long journey of defining self-trust, my intuition and my relationship with God. This journey from self-denial within the context of diasporic displacement towards an affirmation of my true self is at the center of my desire to stage “Wilderness” as the project for this grant is tentatively called, inspired by Delores S. Williams, “Sisters in the Wilderness” and the biblical story of Hagar in Exodus. The wilderness symbolizing this place where God and human meet. The place where liberation and abundance has no human limitation, oppression and marginalization.

I envision a listening session, narrated by songs, chants, drumming and affirmations to portray the story, all the while transforming the audience into participants in the psychical space created by the performance. Thus I imagine a world where I give myself--and the audience--permission to “be.” The songs will be featured in a live performance of my new project, entitled “Wilderness”.

While I have worked both in solo shows and in collaborative spaces, “Wilderness” would be the first time I bring in so many collaborators across artistic disciplines to work on a single multimedia narrative that aims to tell a story as it teaches a culture of movement and flow. To create flow between the dancers, and the musicians involved, I will have to immerse them in a story birthed initially by my imagination, felt first by me. Adding voices to the narrative will challenge me in a way I am desirous to explore in the performance context.

Mapping the diaspora of African women to America through the lens of Ghanian spiritual traditions, I will explore the encounter between Afro-indigenous spiritualities and the diverse Christianities of America--and the confusion, misinformation, and ultimate fruits of this uneasy marriage. In imagining a world where voices once ignored or silenced rise into visibility, we will turn to the languages of Afro-surrealism and magical realism, liberating the imagination to envision the future that we desire to live in.